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Public Interest Litigation: Origins and Strategies will examine how to realise human rights and advance social justice through the practice of law. The course will trace the emergence of the public interest litigation (PIL) movement by reference to the use of law in shaping social policy in different jurisdictions, including America, India, Israel, Canada and South Africa. Students will evaluate various litigation strategies adopted to advance a public interest in the Australian context. Topics covered will include: test case litigation, amicus curiae interventions, class actions or representative proceedings, and litigating Bills of Rights; barriers to conducting PIL, including standing, resource constraints and the risk of adverse costs orders. A critical aim of the course is to encourage students to recognise both the value and limitations of public interest litigation. Students will be asked as part of the course assessment to select a topic of contemporary public interest and devise a litigation strategy to advance an issue of social importance.

The courses 'Public Interest Litigation: Origins and strategies' and 'Legal aid and global justice lawyering: Issues in Practice’ are complementary courses and interested students are encouraged to enrol in both.

  • Origins and history of the public interest law movement
  • The emergence of PIL in different jurisdictions eg India, America, South Africa, Australia, Canada and South America
  • Working with barriers to PIL eg standing, limited resources and risks of costs orders, judicial systems
  • PIL strategies (illustrated by reference to case-studies) eg test-case litigation, class actions/representative proceedings, amicus curiae interventions, administrative review
  • Litigating Bills of Rights (USA, Canada, SA and the UK Human Rights Act) - litigating civil/political and economic, social and cultural rights
  • Invoking international mechanisms and procedures eg Optional Protocols
  • Securing the public interest via alternatives to litigation eg arbitration, mediation
  • Supplementing PIL eg via policy interventions, developing parallel campaigns, working with the media
  • Working with communities and public interest clients - ethical and political considerations
Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Indicative contact hours


Conditions for Enrolment

Prerequisite: Completion of 78 UOC in LAWS courses.

Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:

Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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